The next few years will see many companies opting to mix and match proprietary and open source software where they see fit, according to analyst group Gartner.
Speaking on Thursday at the Midsize Enterprise Summit in Paris, Phil Dawson, Gartner research vice-president, said that the analyst group was increasingly receiving feedback from its clients showing that there is a real growth in companies that want to run open source software stacks on top of Windows, or proprietary software on top of Linux.
"The traditional approach has been an all commercial-Windows stack or a full open source-Linux based stack but these are two extremes of the pendulum. The real growth is in the middle ground," Dawson said.
The merging of the proprietary and open source on the server has been driven in some part by a change in attitude by Microsoft which has recently begun to accept that Linux and open source software isn’t going away.
"Microsoft as an organisation has changed tremendously in the last two years and matured internally," said Dawson. "These massive changes in Microsoft mean we are starting to see Windows based platform running open applications such as Apache on Windows. Likewise you don’t have to consider an open source stack just on Linux stack. The biggest growth area we see is commercial applications on Linux."
The religious differences between Linux and Windows will also become less of an issue as developers choose to write to J2EE or .Net rather than the OS layer, said Dawson. "Independent software developers are becoming platform agnostic when it comes to development. Applications are not written to the OS but to J2EE and .Net and these are portable apps. They still have to be optimised and compiled however."
A quick straw poll of the audience of around 50 IT professionals at the Gartner event showed that around half were using Linux and roughly two thirds were planning to deploy it in the near future.
In a wide-ranging talk looking at the future of server-side operating systems, Dawson said that while Linux continues to go from strength to strength, Unix is moving to a legacy status. "We think new Unix implementations are in decline," he said.
The issue of forking between the two main Linux distributions, Red Hat and Novell’s Suse, was also touched on with Dawson claiming that the two companies will expend a lot of effort differentiating themselves.
Despite making attempts to give Solaris an open-source spin, Dawson said that Sun is positioning Solaris as an effective alternative for some customers to Linux. However he warned that if Sun fails to make Solaris a good enough alternative in the near future, then companies will continue to abandon the Unix variant in favour of Linux. "For Sun to survive they are investing in Solaris to compete with Unix and Linux. If Sun has not pulled away significantly by the 2007 time frame then Sun is going to have big problems," said Dawson.